Saved by Her Enemy: An Iraqi Woman's Journey From the Heart of War to the Heartland of America
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Saved by Her Enemy: An Iraqi Woman's Journey From the Heart of War to the Heartland of America

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by Don Teague, Rafraf Barrak

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For her entire life, Rafraf, a devout Muslim, had been told that Americans were the enemy. Her understanding of the world, of her place in it, and of the United States had been steeped in the culture of Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Yet, in the midst of insurgents attempting to kidnap and kill her, she found herself on the receiving end of lifesaving help


For her entire life, Rafraf, a devout Muslim, had been told that Americans were the enemy. Her understanding of the world, of her place in it, and of the United States had been steeped in the culture of Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Yet, in the midst of insurgents attempting to kidnap and kill her, she found herself on the receiving end of lifesaving help from those she considered her enemies.

Rafraf suddenly finds herself living with a Christian family in the Bible Belt of America. Nothing had prepared her for this new reality—the life of a college student in a vastly foreign culture, in a community as far from her expectations as she could have imagined, and in a family that opens their hearts to enfold her.

Saved by Her Enemy
is a riveting journey of two very different people from opposite sides of the world, of faith, of experience, and of expectations. The dramatic intersection of their lives and their journey together is an inspiration to those who have ever felt there was more to life than the world they knew.

A young Iraqi woman, an American war correspondent, and a true tale of friendship, faith, and family against the backdrop of war and the collision of cultures

This is a story of a very unlikely friendship—between American war correspondent Don Teague and Rafraf Barrak, an Iraqi college girl who won a job as a translator for NBC during the early months of violence in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq.

While covering a story together, the two were nearly killed by a bomb, an experience that created a bond between them that led them down a path neither could have imagined.

What follows is a story of transformation, as Rafraf—from a devout Muslim family—becomes the target of terrorist threats to kidnap and murder her. Don and his fellow correspondents mobilize to help save her life and suddenly Rafraf finds herself on the receiving end of an offer for safety and a new life in the United States.

Dramatically transplanted from the streets of Iraq to the Bible Belt of middle America, Rafraf finds everything that she knew—or thought she knew—about herself, her values, her world, even faith and family, turned upside down. Meanwhile, Don; his wife, Kiki; and their children discover they’ve embarked on an adventure with Rafraf that reshapes their lives.

This captivating story inspires us all to join Don and Rafraf in discovering that there is far more to life than the world we know.

Product Details

Howard Books
Publication date:
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9.32(w) x 6.38(h) x 1.07(d)

Read an Excerpt



Ibrahim looked at me through the rearview mirror. We both expected a burst of gunfire to riddle the beat-up Suburban at any second, but it never came. Instead there was a moment of eerie silence as our SUV careened down the dirt road… trying to put as much distance between us and the school as possible. Our army convoy had left us to fend for ourselves; the protection of their turret-mounted machine guns was nowhere in sight.

How many were dead? We had no idea, but seconds before the explosion, the street had been filled with children. Now there was only chaos and rage. We were completely unable to defend ourselves, two SUVs carrying a half dozen frightened journalists and our British security adviser, Rupert.

Young Iraqi men lined the road, some running toward the still smoking aftermath of the blast, some watching us race away in stunned silence, others shouting and raising their fists in anger.

Rupert rode shotgun. His pistol would be worthless in the expected ambush. It never left his holster.

“They bombed the bloody school,” Rupert shouted into a handheld radio. “Repeat! They bombed the school!”

There was no answer.

“Don’t slow down,” I told Ibrahim, “no matter what.”


The Iraqi driver floored the accelerator.

The Suburban bounced and bucked as our makeshift convoy roared down the dirt road past the squatty concrete homes that dotted the landscape of western Baghdad. The residents knew enough to stay inside; the roads were empty save for a few stray dogs and goats.

Somewhere ahead was a left turn that would lead us to a busy road. The risk of ambush would be smaller if we could just make that road, but our chances of getting there seemed remote. We managed to put half a mile between the school and us, but none of us could relax. Not yet.

In recent weeks, insurgents had modified their tactics. No longer content with simply bombing foreigners, they had begun ambushing survivors with AK-47s as they tried to run. And we were running for our lives. Our unarmored vehicles would be no match for bullets, much less another bomb.

I turned and looked out the back window. The school was receding into the distance, the crowd outside still visible even through the dust cloud left hanging in the air by our racing convoy.

For the first time in the last—what had it been, three minutes?—I caught my breath, the adrenaline replaced by a sudden wave of nausea. I recognized the feeling from the last time I was almost killed; it would pass. That’s when I noticed Ibrahim, looking at me in the rearview mirror. He was telling me something with his eyes.

I suddenly became acutely aware of Rafraf. She was sitting on my right, closest to the door. But she wasn’t sitting as much as lying down half across my body. She seemed tiny and frail, even wrapped in what was supposed to be my body armor. I could feel her body rise and fall with each breath. I could feel her tears on my arm.

And there was Ibrahim again, looking at me in the rearview mirror.

Rafraf was twenty-three years old. She should have been in school, but Baghdad University had been closed for more than a year. So instead of enjoying her last semester as a college student, Rafraf was putting her English skills to work doing the most dangerous job in the most dangerous city on earth. She was working as a translator for NBC News, which currently meant trying to survive the ride back to our hotel.

“What about all the children?” she asked, her voice barely above a whimper. “There were children everywhere. Don’t they care?”

“Maybe the children knew in advance,” I said. “Maybe they had warning. I didn’t see any bodies.” It was the most I could offer, but I wasn’t convinced.

Rafraf sobbed, “There were so many children.” I felt her body shudder.

I squeezed her hand, and for the first time realized I was holding her hand, my right arm draped around her for protection. I loosened my grip to allow her to sit up, but she didn’t move. I became aware of the scarf that covered her head and most of her face, aware, in fact, of all that meant.

Rafraf was a Muslim woman in a culture that demanded separation between men and women. In the weeks I had worked with Rafraf I had never actually touched her… not even a handshake. Now here I was with my arm wrapped around her body.

Ibrahim spoke little English, but in this case he didn’t have to. He had been sending me a message with his eyes… perhaps a warning: RAFRAF IS ONE OF US, NOT ONE OF YOU. DON’T TOUCH OUR WOMEN.

I gently nudged Rafraf back to her upright position and let her go.

“It’ll be okay,” I said weakly. But I knew it wouldn’t. I also knew deep down this wouldn’t be the last time I tried to save Rafraf.

© 2010 Don Teague


Meet the Author

Don Teague is currently a correspondent for Early Show and CBS Evening News. Prior to that, he served NBC News as a correspondent for NBC News as a correspondent and has covered a wide range of stories, from Hurricanes along the Gulf coast, to wildfires in Southern California, riots across France, and the war in Iraq. Teague won an Emmy Award for his reporting from New Orleans in the chaotic aftermath of hurricane Katrina. His contributions to NBC’s Katrina coverage also earned the prestigious Peabody and Edward R. Murrow awards. Teague has received other awards, including several national Emmy nominations, three Edward R. Murrow awards, two National Headliner awards, two regional Emmys, seventeen regional Emmy nominations, and several Associated Press Broadcasters awards.

Rafraf Barrak was born into a Shiite Muslim family in Baghdad, Iraq. As a student at Baghdad University, she had pursued a degree in English Literature until the University was closed due to war. Her knowledge of the city of Baghdad and her skills in English won her a job as a translator for NBC war correspondents. She is now a student in the United States and lives with the Teague family in Texas.

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Saved by Her Enemy: An Iraqi Woman's Journey From the Heart of War to the Heartland of America 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saved By Her Enemy completely had me hooked from the beginning. It was captivating, funny, uplifting, and really made me feel like I was there experiencing the story along with Don and RafRaf. I was engrossed from start to finish and finished the book with a new perspective and understanding of life in Iraq and what it really means to be free. Saved By Her Enemy begins with Don and RafRaf together in a car as they flee a school bombing in Iraq. The book then jumps back to tell the backstories of both Don as an NBC News Correspondent and RafRaf as a young woman growing up in Iraq. Later in the book the two meet when RafRaf is hired by NBC as a translator. Even though I knew the ending before I read the book, I was completely on the edge of my seat as Don and RafRaf were doing everything they could to get her out of Iraq and out of the imminent danger she was in. It's not every day that you get to see what life is like in either of these areas (as a journalist or as an Iraqi) and the perspective that Saved By Her Enemy offered was just incredible. Saved By Her Enemy is definitely a must-read book that I would highly recommend to anyone.
Kristina5 More than 1 year ago
Wow! I finished the book this morning and the truth is right now, I find it hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Nothing seems adequate. The war and their experiences with the danger and bombings and the constant fear - Don took me right there. And the way Don and Rafraf's friendship grew - so heartwarming. But the most moving to me was of course his faith journey - how he believed God was calling him to something, his willingness to do whatever it was. His faith to believe for the impossible. His humility in telling this extraordinary journey. Rafraf's courage to leave ALL she had ever known behind and go to the land of what she was taught all her life was her enemy. And of course Kiki and their daughters. I was afraid, I laughed, I cried. Ultimately, my heart is happy with the outcome.
Ryan2000 More than 1 year ago
A captivating, emotional page turner from start to finish! Don Teague and Rafraf Barak write an incredible account of an unlikely friendship between an NBC correspondent stationed in Iraq and a young Iraqi girl living in Baghdad. The reader gets an incredible narrative of Rafraf's life before, during, and after the US invasion, a behind the scenes look at life as a reporter early in the war, and an incredible story of God's intervention to rescue this girl from insurgents who want her dead. The book changes at times from the 1st person (Don's view) to the 3rd person (more from Rafraf's view) adding a fascinating element to the story. Through that approach the reader gets a clear picture of both Rafraf's and Don's perspectives of life in this war torn country. Don Teague and his family did a wonderful thing by selflessly inviting this girl to come live with them in the US, and should serve as an example to all believers on how to love their neighbor as much as they love themselves. 10 stars, highly recommend, you will absolutely love this book!
Little_Loft More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating from the moment you pick it up till you put it down. I loved this book. It open my eyes to the true story of Iraq. The story of Don Teague and Raraf Barrak is inspiring and gripping at the same time. It show you God has a plan for all of us even when we don't see it. I pray this book will change your life as it has mine.
B-reader More than 1 year ago
I managed to get an advanced copy of this book and it blew my mind. I felt as though I was there in Iraq with reporter Don Teague as he faced hatred and cultural misunderstanding...and was almost killed several times. You feel his fear and longing for home. The book gives a soul to all Iraqi women by telling the story of young Rafraf, who risks her life working with the "enemy" as a network news translator. We meet her family and learn about life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and during the recent war. I was fascinated by the survival tacticts of women living under Islam. Her adjustment to life in America with the Teague's is filled with didn't go as everyone had planned.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an easy interesting read, and for the most part not overly preachy.
Roger Minton More than 1 year ago
this book was fantastic. i bought it from my local dollar store and was wrapped up in it. i couldnt put it down. it was a real eye opener to find out how someone from there felt about everything. it was worth much more then the dollar i paid for it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don Teague, former news correspondent for NBC, was sent to Kuwait, just after 9-11. In his first visit, he spent several months traveling in and out of Iraq, reporting on items of interest. When he reached the end of his tenure there, he returned home, happy to be alive. But NBC still needed him to go back, and this time it would be to Baghdad. Rafraf Barrak grew up in Baghdad with a strong nationalistic pride in her country, and a respectful fear of Saddam Hussein. She despised the Americans who had invaded, and thought they humiliated Iraq. But Rafraf spoke very good English, and she decided to put aside her prejudices and take a job as translator for NBC, when she was offered it. But then she found herself a target when Iraqi insurgents determined she was working for the enemy. After one incident where both Don and Rafraf were nearly killed in a school explosion, Don decided he needed to get Rafraf out of Iraq. But this would prove more challenging than he initially expected, and keeping her in America would be even more difficult. But would Rafraf adjust to life in the US after so many years of repression in Iraq? In Saved By Her Enemy, Don Teague and Rafraf Barrak tell their stories. Rafraf shares her experiences in Iraq, leading up to her decision to come to America, and how she ultimately converts to Christianity. Don explains how he knew God led him back to Iraq on that second tour of duty with NBC for the sole purpose of rescuing Rafraf and bringing her home with him. Both Don and Rafraf are wonderful story tellers, and the backdrop of violence and fear in Iraq come alive for the reader. It's easy to understand why Don felt protective of this intelligent and unique Iraqi woman, and why he would be willing to put himself out to ensure her survival. And Rafraf is strong and courageous in the face of unknown terrors. We may never know what good things God has planned for our lives, when we leave ourselves open to His leading. Don followed the direction he knew he had been given, and was able to save Rafraf - both in body and soul. If you're looking for an inspirational read with a great message and a happy ending, I highly recommend Saved By Her Enemy. Reviewer: Alice Berger
castillo More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating from the first chapter to finish! The young women RafRaf was inspiring as well as all the news correspondants mentioned that impacted her life. This book gave to me a great appreciation to all the work and dedication of not only our brave soldiers in the time of war, but to all of those who risk their lives in keeping the American public informed in dangerous circumstances. Being a Mexican-American student I felt an immense sense of gratitude for my country the United States of America as well as better understanding of what a foreigner to the U.S. experiences and discovers. This book is great for all readers of all backgrounds. I highly reccomend and urge this book for yourself or as a gift because it does NOT Dissapoint.
BJBG More than 1 year ago
Hooray for Rafraf and those who love her! What a hope for life and compassion! As an American, I understood Rafraf's anger. As a woman, I felt her courage and abasement. As a human, I experienced her redemption. Saved by her Enemy puts you right on the frontline. It effectively parallels the thoughts and perceptions of two "enemies" - of two completely different worlds - one inside the war, and one in and out. It is truly a gift to see the war, and her world, through an Iraqi woman's eyes, and not my own sheltered view. I ended the book at 3 in the morning with a perspective on my life so much different than when I started. The humor, encouragement, bravery and human love and kindness, in times of insurgency, is a lesson for us all. Thank you for sharing your life, your strength and your resilience. It gives us all a life for thought!
MSCB More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The story helped me to learn about what is going on in Iraq at a deeper level. It is like a current events book intertwined with an interesting story that felt very real. It also provided a greater understanding of how people in Iraq feel about our invasion and why the subject is so complicated. I enjoyed the candid feelings shared by both Don and Rafraf. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about what is going on the world today.
happyreaderKK More than 1 year ago
I was so impressed with this book. I finished it in 2 days because I could not put it down. I enjoyed this true story about News Correspondents in Iraq and all of the trials and tribulations they went through. I also enjoyed hearing about the life of people in Iraq and especially a life of a woman in Iraq. Rafraf is a woman to be admired. She has courage and strength. Don and his family are models to us all. He listened to what God was telling him. Many times we reach out to others to help them but almost all of the time the people that reach out are also blessed. Thanks Don and Rafraf for sharing your story. It will stay with me forever!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an easy read dealing with seriously deep subject matter. I would recommend it to young adults and open-minded middle agers interested in what happened during the bombing of Iraq. This book is a little bit of light in a world filled with prejudice and hate, even for those who might be biased with regard to religion or wars themselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reads like novel but it's even better than that because it's true. It gave me a new insight into a group of people that I had only seen on TV in short stories...usually all bad. This book changed the way that I look at what is going on in Iraq and has given me a real heart for the people who live there. Thank you Don and Rafraf for sharing your story of hope, courage and family in the face of adversity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
way too expensive...not worth that much money
Angela Meadows More than 1 year ago
This book was okay. It skipped back and forth from Rafraf to Don. It could have been called "Rafraf and Don". About a third of it was her coming to/living in America. I was disappointed in her decision in the end. But I know it's a true story and I wish the best for her in her new life. I'm impressed by her indomitable will to make her life better.